Lindsey Vonn, MIkaela Shiffrin
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Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin meet to discuss rivalry

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ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Over hot chocolate, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin recently had their first real heart-to-heart chat.

Among the topics discussed in a New Zealand coffee shop were family, friends, “girl stuff” — as Shiffrin put it — and, of course, ski racing.

Throughout the season, these two American teammates could very well be at the top of the overall standings. Might come down to the very end, too.

No bitterness, they maintain. No nastiness, either. Just a robust rivalry.

“How will it be going head-to-head? It’s exciting to find out,” said the 20-year-old Shiffrin, who will be a big favorite in a World Cup giant slalom race Friday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra) on home snow, along with two slalom events over the weekend. “If we were to go head-to-head, I have a feeling it could be one of those things where she’s not going to give it to me and I’m sure as heck not going to give it to her.”

For years, Shiffrin was touted as the next Vonn. Well, Shiffrin’s fulfilled those lofty expectations, capturing the slalom title at the 2013 world championships, Olympic gold in the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games and then defending her world title last February in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

This season, Shiffrin ventures into Vonn’s territory by adding some speed events, beginning next week with a super-G at Lake Louise, Alberta.

MORE: FIS World Cup TV and live streaming schedule

Among those who believe Shiffrin’s ready for the jump to speed is Vonn.

“She’s just a great skier and she’s obviously extremely talented,” said the 31-year-old Vonn, who’s healed from breaking her left ankle three months ago in training and a bite on her right thumb that required stitches after breaking up a fight between her dogs. “She has such a great touch on snow and such a solid technique.

“I’m sure she’s going to do phenomenal in speed as well.”

High praise from Vonn, the four-time overall champion. Then again, she doesn’t see this rivalry as anything but healthy.

Being a decade older than Shiffrin, Vonn wants to be a “resource” for her young compatriot.

“We both have a lot of respect for each other,” said Vonn, the all-time winningest female World Cup racer who will compete only in the GS this weekend. “We’ll see how the season shapes up. It would be really great for ski racing if two Americans were fighting for the overall.”

The paths of Shiffrin and Vonn haven’t crossed all that much over the years. That’s partly because of Vonn’s serious knee injury, which kept her out of the Sochi Games. And when Vonn has been back, they’ve traveled in different circles since Shiffrin works so closely with the technical side.

That’s why Vonn invited Shiffrin out for cocoa during training over the summer. A chance to get better acquainted.

Vonn’s take on their meeting: “It was a really nice conversation. It wasn’t anything in particular. Just kind of a nice, easy conversation.”

Shiffrin was flattered a skier she’s long considered one of her idols wanted to sit down with her.

“Lindsey’s made more sacrifices than anybody else in order to get the job done,” Shiffrin said. “I respect that a lot.”

With defending overall champion Anna Fenninger sidelined by a knee injury and Tina Maze taking a break, that opens the door for a Vonn-Shiffrin showdown.

“If she beats me for the overall, you know what, cheers to that,” Shiffrin said. “It’s like, ‘You’re a really good ski racer and a really good athlete and there’s a reason you’re winning.’ Hopefully, I’ll be able to give her some good competition.”

Off to a great start. Shiffrin finished second in the giant slalom last month in Soelden, Austria. Valuable points, especially with Vonn skipping it to give her ankle more time to mend.

Shiffrin believes she can be on the podium in all three races this weekend. No American has finished in the top three during a World Cup race at Aspen since Julia Mancuso was third in 2011. What’s more, no American has won at this venue since Tamara McKinney in 1981.

“The podium is definitely a possibility. Maybe more than a possibility,” Shiffrin said. “But things have to line up.”

Mikaela Shiffrin struggles in Aspen slalom (video)

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin dropped from leading after the first run to finish fifth in a World Cup slalom in Aspen, Colo., on Sunday.

Austrian Nicole Hosp won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 44.9 seconds, which was .19 better than Swede Frida Hansdotter. Austrian Kathrin Zettel was third to keep her World Cup overall lead.

Shiffrin, who led by .11 after the first of two runs, finished 1.08 behind with the 19th-fastest second run. The reigning Olympic, World Championships and World Cup slalom champion has finished 11th and fifth in two slaloms this season.

“I have a little bit of work to do in the slalom, and I knew that coming into this race,” Shiffrin said on NBC.

“I’m starting off a little bit behind, I feel like [this season],” Shiffrin said later.

She said she’s handling the disappointment of finishing sixth in Saturday’s giant slalom and fifth Sunday better than two weeks ago, when she was 11th in a slalom in Levi, Finland.

This is the first time that Shiffrin has finished off the podium in consecutive slaloms since March 2012.

“In Levi, I just kind of wanted to sit on the ground and scream,” Shiffrin said. “Here, I’m like, all right, I get to go watch the video and figure out where I can improve in both [giant slalom] and slalom.”

Shiffrin was bidding to win her 10th World Cup slalom and break her tie with Tamara McKinney and Phil Mahre for the most World Cup slalom wins by an American.

“I knew I needed to do something special in the second run today, but that little extra something wasn’t there,” Shiffrin said, according to Reuters.

The Austrian Hosp, 31, won her first World Cup race since Jan. 13, 2008. Hosp won the World Cup overall title at age 23 in 2006-07 but has been working her way back since suffering an ACL injury that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

Hosp won super combined silver and super-G bronze at the Sochi Olympics.

“It’s like another lifetime,” Hosp said of the near seven years between wins, according to Reuters. “To win today is a bit like scoring my first victory.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday. That is slated to be Lindsey Vonn‘s first race since Dec. 21.

Shiffrin is not expected to race in Lake Louise but should race in a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 13.

The men’s Alpine World Cup continues in Beaver Creek, Colo., with three days of racing beginning Friday. NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage (full schedule here).

NBC SportsWorld: Shiffrin starts trek toward dream of five gold medals

Mikaela Shiffrin sixth in Aspen (video); watch her on NBC, NBCSN this weekend

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin finished sixth in a World Cup giant slalom in front of home fans in Aspen, Colo., on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi, improved from 10th place after the first of two runs. She dealt with a stomach illness this week.

“It seemed like an insurmountable gap,” Shiffrin said of being 2.23 seconds behind going into the second run. “If I keep improving my skiing, and I get a little bit more confidence, I might be able to make up that kind of a gap someday.”

She finished 1.71 seconds behind Austrian Eva-Maria Brem, who won her first World Cup race. Another Austrian, Kathrin Zettel, was second followed by Italian Federica Brignone.

“It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now,” Brem said. “I tried to push the second run because I thought if I don’t win this now, I will never get over it.”

Shiffrin, 19, gave up her World Cup overall lead to Zettel, though the season is still very young.

Shiffrin won her first World Cup giant slalom in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 25. She’s aiming to expand from her specialty of slalom this season by adding victories in giant slalom and debuting in super-G.

Watch Shiffrin in the Aspen giant slalom on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. ET. Shiffrin will then ski her best event, the slalom, live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Sunday from 3-4 p.m. ET.

NBC SportsWorld: Shiffrin starts trek toward dream of five gold medals